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Crespi Lab News

A new paper is published about permethrin exposure affects

Grace Curtis, along with collaborators, had their paper titled “Trans-ovo permethrin exposure affects growth, brain morphology and cardiac development in quail” published in Environmental Toxicology.


Permethrin is a commonly used, highly effective pesticide in poultry agriculture, and has recently been trialed in conservation efforts to protect Galápagos finch hatchlings from an invasive ectoparasite. Although permethrin is considered safe for adults, pesticides can have health consequences when animals are exposed during early life stages. The few studies that have examined permethrin’s effects in embryonic chicks and rats have shown hydrocephaly, anencephaly, reduced cellular energy conversion, and disruption of developing heart muscle. To test whether trans-ovo exposure of permethrin affects early development in birds, we exposed Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) eggs to cotton treated with 1% permethrin that was incorporated into nests in two amounts (0.2, 0.8 g), each with a paired untreated cotton control group. When measured on incubation Day 15, we found permethrin-treated developing birds were smaller and showed signs of microcephaly, although mortality rates were the same. Despite no difference in heart mass, ventricular tissue was less compact, cardiac arteries were reduced and heart rates were slower in permethrin-treated birds. Differences in heart development were also observed at 5 days of incubation, indicating that abnormalities are present from early in cardiac development. Future studies are needed to examine permethrin’s effects on developmental pathways and to determine if these effects persist after hatching to affect offspring health. This study provides evidence that permethrin can cross the eggshell to cause non-lethal but adverse effects on embryonic development, and studies should look beyond hatching when monitoring the efficacy of permethrin on wild bird populations.

Link to article

Grace Curtis earns Sigma Xi award

Grace Curtis received $1,000 from Sigma Xi for her project titled “Leptin’s Functional Role in Angiogenesis during Regeneration and Development”.

This project will determine whether the nutritional hormone leptin promotes blood vessel formation during appendage regeneration in Xenopus tadpoles. Studying blood vessel formation during regeneration could yield insight into future human wound healing therapies.

Congratulations, Grace!


Kourtnie Whitfield earns American Microscopical Society Student Research Fellowship award

Kourtnie received a $1,000 grant from the American Microscopical Society for her research project titled “Testing leptin regulation of mucus secretion in X. tropicalis embryonic mucociliary epidermis: A model for respiratory epithelium”

She will be testing the hypothesis that leptin signaling promotes mucus secretion/production in mucociliary epithelia, such as the lining of mammalian respiratory tract, by using the Xenopus epidermis as a model for mucociliary epithelia. To do this, she will be upregulating and downregulating leptin in Xenopus and examining changes in mucus secretion/production and changes in numbers of mucus secreting cells. She will also determine expression patterns of leptin and leptin receptor mRNA to determine cell-specific leptin signaling.

Congratulations, Kourtnie!

Crespi lab collaboration receives $3 million NSF grant

“With this new National Science Foundation grant, Washington State University will prepare graduate students to tackle a difficult problem that is more than 1,200 miles long: the Columbia River.

The five-year, $3 million award will fund a research training program focused on the relationships among rivers, watersheds, and communities. The program is intended to transform graduate science education, creating a diverse workforce that will not just conduct research but also first engage with the many communities that depend on the Columbia for clean water and food.”

WSU receives $3 million for graduate research to improve Columbia River

Who let the frogs out? Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, ribbit?

A culmination of hard work and collaboration with the Oregon Zoo and the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, resulted in hundreds of endangered northern leopard frogs being hatched, raised, and released back into the wild of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

The Washington state population of northern leopard frogs has a unique genetic variation relative to the rest of the species range, and they are part of the natural diversity of amphibians of the region. Projects and collaborations like this between our lab and wildlife parks/zoos are important to boost the state’s northern leopard frog population.

Our new Ph.D. graduate student, Lex Dulmage, hit the ground running by partnering up with Dr. Crespi to work diligently and facilitate this northern leopard frog release.

Endangered northern leopard frogs hatched, raised and released back into the wild

Endangered frog species released into Columbia National Wildlife Refuge

Hopping into the wild: Endangered frog release could help boost only known population in Washington

Native Plant Walk with Palouse Matters Group

Biology graduate students Alexis Sullivan and Rachel Berner, and Caretaker Lewis Payne, had a lovely time on a native plant walk with the Palouse Matters group to explore our Palouse Prairie remnant on Smoot Hill. We look forward to future visits!

Palouse Matters is a new program in the Washington State University Center for Environmental Research, Education, and Outreach, organized by an interdisciplinary team of WSU faculty. The program allows undergraduate students to explore the geologic, ecologic, social, and cultural history of the Palouse Prairie to foster a stronger connection to place. Dr. Jolie Kaytes is an associate professor in the School of Design and Construction and is leading the project. She and her colleagues hope to illustrate how engage students in conversation about what it means to be part of a community. To quote Jolie from her interview for the article by Eric Lozaga, Jolie highlights…

‘”Many students graduate from WSU unaware of the region’s histories, cultures, and ecologies, or their own relationship to this place,” she said. “It’s a place that can be overlooked.”

“Yet, deep study of the area can reveal much about issues and history of the American West, geological time, environmental degradation, and tribal injustices, she said. “They illustrate how social, cultural, and biophysical processes shape all places,” she added.’

See below for photos from our Native Plant Walk.

Nature Walk at Smoot Hill with the Idaho Native Plant Society White Pine Chapter

Biology graduate students Alexis Sullivan and Rachel Berner, and Caretaker Lewis Payne enjoyed a Native Plant Walk at Smoot Hill with the White Pine Chapter of the Idaho Native Plant Society. Together, we observed and identified native plants, learned about the natural history of the ecosystem, and shared some laughs over the summer blooms. Thank you for visiting us here at the Hudson Biological Reserve!

The Idaho Native Plant Society describes itself as “a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting interest in native plants and plant communities, and collecting and sharing information on all phases of the botany of native plants in Idaho. We seek to foster an understanding and appreciation of our native flora and to preserve this rich heritage for future generations.” The White Pine Chapter of the INPS is based in Moscow, Idaho. Follow these links to their website and social media for more information.

See below for photos from our Native Plant Walk.

Native Plant Walk at Smoot Hill with Idaho Master Naturalists Group

A group photo of participants from the native

The Idaho Master Naturalists Group visited the Hudson Biological Reserve for a Native Plant Walk with Caretaker Lewis Payne and WSU graduate students Alexis Sullivan and Rachel Berner. We had a great time looking at plants, and learning about the ecology and geology of Smoot Hill. We tried some Biscuitroot, Lomatium sp., a native plant and First Food for Indigenous tribes. This time of year many beautiful native plants are in bloom including Zigadenus venenosus S. Watson var. gramineus (Rydb.) Walsh ex M.E. Peck (Grassy death
camas), Calochortus elegans Pursh (Cat’s ear), and Helianthella uniflora (Nutt.) Torr. & A.Gray var. douglasii (Torr. & A.Gray) W.A.Weber (False sunflower). Thank you Lewis and Clark Chapter members, come visit us again soon!

With the goal to “develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to actively work toward stewardship of Idaho’s natural environment”, the Idaho Master Naturalists Program is organized by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. This program provides community members with the opportunity to attend 40 hours of education about Idaho’s natural world, Naturalists will volunteer their service to the community for 40 hours for conservation. Volunteering activities include “Citizen Science, Conservation Education, Administration, Habitat Stewardship, and Chapter Formation and Maintenance”. There are 8 chapters within Idaho located in Sandpoint, Lewiston, McCall, Nampa, Boise, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Island Park. Their website states, “Anyone who enjoys and appreciates Idaho’s outdoors can be an Idaho Master Naturalist; teachers, hunters, recreationists, farmers, retired professionals, and . . . you!”

See below for photos from our Native Plant Walk.